I have written very little over the last month or so. I own several blogs, but I’ve only written one blog post total. I posted a couple of new articles at eHow, but they were copy-and-pastes from articles that I previously written (but never submitted anywhere). (The two posts with December dates on them that appear on this blog were actually written in November, but were set to auto-publish in December.)
The truth is (and bear with me here–this is usually a pretty impersonal blog that is about to get deeply personal), I feel lost and foggy, and can’t figure out what I want to write about. Things that used to make me think, “THAT would make a good article” now seem so trivial.
My son’s best friend killed himself last month. A month ago today.
Chris was a shining example of what all boys should be. He was a straight-A student (like my son, Chris had never earned anything lower than an A on his report cards, since kindergarten). He was an all-star athlete, who excelled at every sport that he tried. He was polite and kind, funny and witty. He always seemed happy, and I don’t think I ever saw him without a huge smile on his face. He had big plans for a very bright future: He and my son planned to go to Harvard together (my son wanted to study English literature and writing, and Chris wanted to eventually go to Harvard Law [I know a lot of kids WANT things like that, but Chris was the kind of kid who actually CAN and DOES achieve what he wants]).
Teachers told me–at the beginning of this school year–that although Chris and my son talked too much during class, they didn’t want to separate the boys, because Chris and my son needed each other: they “work[ed] at the same high level, and other kids can’t relate to their processes and pace.” In all of my son’s schooling, Chris was the one kid who “got” my son, because Chris was fiercely intelligent, with the same off-the-wall sense of humor. I suggested more than once that they start their own online tv show, along the lines of SNL (they had written hilarious skits together before).
For the last month, I have mourned. I have probably cried more tears in the last month than I had shed in the previous 36 months combined. I have wailed. I have howled out sobs in primal, animalistic ways that I didn’t know I was capable of. I continually wonder if there was anything anyone could or should have seen. My son’s therapist and counselors say no.
I have made myself crazy wondering why. Why? WHY?!? Why would someone so seemingly happy and so loved by so many do something so violent and final? Why couldn’t he reach out to my son and ask for help, or tell him that he was hurting? I have turned it all over in my head, and looked at this from so many angles…if I voiced everything that I’ve thought, someone would probably drag me to a therapist on the grounds that I have gone off the deep end. Here are some of the things I’ve thought:
- It was heartbreak-related depression. Chris had a girlfriend, and she had apparently broken up with him a couple of weeks prior (although my son and his friends say it didn’t seem to phase Chris).
- It was stress-related. Perhaps Chris felt crushed and smothered beneath the weight of all the expectations put upon him (by his parents, teachers, teammates, classmates, friends, and himself), and felt that ending it was easier than carrying on another day.
- It was mental illness. Mental illness or a chemical imbalance hit Chris hard and fast, and resulted in suicidal thoughts before anyone could notice a difference in him.
- Chris was a good actor, who suffered in silence for a long time. Nobody ever knew that behind his smile, he was battling demons who ended up getting the best of him.
- It was medication-related. There were whispers (unverified) that Chris was bipolar. If this is true, perhaps his medication led to his suicidal thoughts.
- It was divine intervention of some sort. Chris’ full name was Christopher Christian-Michael. At my darkest, most despairing moments after his death, my mind came up with a convoluted explanation to it all: Chris was an angel on earth. His name explained his Christ-like demeanor. Like Christ, his death was violent and tragic. Maybe he was sent and taken to teach us all something. But what? Chris’ death brought about a sense of unity within the community, and made the parents in this small town start thinking in a different way. Are we pushing our kids too hard? Are we really listening? And is ANY lesson, no matter how profound, worth it?
Chris had turned thirteen years old just twenty days before he took his own life, using his father’s gun (his father is a detective for the police department). Thirteen. In the pre-dawn hours, on December 7, 2009, Chris climbed into his father’s car–I think he didn’t want his brother and sister to see his body–and sent his parents a text saying “It’s not your fault. I’m just tired. I stayed longer than I intended,” put the cold pistol under his chin, and ended his life.
Think back to thirteen, and how little you knew about yourself and the world, and how much you have learned since then. I am painfully saddened that Chris will never be forty years old, and reflect back on this time in his life, realizing that in the big scope of things, thirteen wasn’t as bad as it seemed.
My heart and body ache at the thought of how much he must have been hurting. (Chris was very intelligent and very caring, and I know that his pain at that moment must have been excrutiating. Thinking clearly, Chris would not have done this to his parents and friends.) I ache because this vibrant young man is not here any more.
My heart aches when I see my son, knowing that he feels lost, confused, and alone. My darling boy, who at thirteen has to face the cold and harsh reality that his friend is not here anymore. My son whose present and future were shattered at the speed of a bullet.
I think of Chris’ mother when I see my boy, and my heart hurts knowing that she will never see hers again. During the last conversation I had with her, we discussed how the boys are always beating and banging on things (both are drummers), and we both said that it drove us nuts. I used to yell at my son for doing it. Now, when he bangs on things, I send up a prayer of gratitude, giving thanks that I have my boy with me. I know Chris’ mom would give anything to hear his incessant banging again.
I feel I will never be able to stop replaying the phone call that I got from my son that morning, just minutes after I’d dropped him off at school. I hear it in my head at least once a day. My son–whose innocence was violently ripped away when a mutual friend told him the news– his voice quivering and thick: “Can you come pick me up? Chris killed himself….”